An App to Perfect the Selfie is Being Developed


Aug 8, 2017


100% will use — while worrying about the fate of humanity

Computer scientists at the University of Waterloo have developed a smartphone app that helps people learn how to take the perfect selfie.

In other news, this is how the world ends.

The app is built around an algorithm that gives the user selfie tips on where and how to position the camera allowing them to take the best shot possible.

“Selfies have increasingly become a normal way for people to express themselves and their experiences, only not all selfies are created equal,” said Dan Vogel, a professor of computer science at Waterloo. “Unlike other apps that enhance a photo after you take it, this system gives direction, meaning the user is actually learning why their photo will be better.”

In developing the algorithm, Vogel and Qifan Li, a former Master’s degree student at Waterloo, bought 3D digital scans of “average” looking people. They took hundreds of “virtual selfies” by writing code to control a virtual smartphone camera and computer-generated lighting which allowed them to explore different composition principles, like lighting, face positioning, and face size.

Using an online crowdsourcing service, the researchers had thousands of people vote on which of the virtual selfie photos they felt were best, and then mathematically modeled the patterns of votes to develop an algorithm that can guide people on how to take the perfect selfie.

They later had real people take selfies with a standard camera app, and an app powered by the algorithm. Based on more online ratings, they found a 26% improvement in selfies taken with the app.

“This is just the beginning of what is possible,” said Vogel, who, with Li, recently presented the work in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the 2017 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems. “We can expand the variables to include variables aspects such as hairstyle, types of smile or even the outfit you wear. When it comes to teaching people to take better selfies, the sky’s the limit.”

True — but just ask Icarus what happens when you fly too high. India already has the questionable renown as the country with the most selfie-related deaths in the world. It’s possible this app can make it easier to get the perfect shot — and thus get the selfie-taker out of the middle of the road more quickly. Or, it will just enable our obsession over photographic details and keep us standing obliviously in the way of traffic for longer.

But perhaps the better Greek mythological hero to slip into conversation with your selfie-mad teen is Narcissus, who wasted away while entranced by the reflection of his own beauty. How much faster would he have disappeared if he knew his most attractive angle? Hopefully, we won’t find out….


Written By Lila Sahija

Lila reports on health and science news for The Swaddle. She has loved biology ever since she dissected her first frog in eighth grade, and now has a keen interest in examining human behavior. She also loves animals and takes at least one adventure a year through rural India. Oh, and she bakes a mean German coffee cake.


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